The Aftermath

Dogwood 2

I was restless when I got home from work because I had eaten too much of the wrong food, like chocolate chips right out of the bag, and that cookie I got from Panda Express the other day. I had to get out, so I pedaled out into the neighborhood and made my blood pump a little faster through my veins. This bike and I, we’re old friends. It’s a sturdy Raleigh that I will never give up, it is solid like a tank. Not one of those titanium lightweight models.

On the way to the main road I saw a van emptying the house of a woman who recently passed away. Died of a massive heart attack. On the side of it was written, “Aftermath.” As if all that’s left of a life could possibly fit in that van. I hope she didn’t die alone. I pedaled on, past the van with the old bed mattresses and furniture and odds and ends stuffed inside.

The dogwoods both pink and white are blooming all over town, and the wisteria. The cherry trees too. Fruit stands will be popping up now. I meant to pedal past the little Library on Edgewood but I missed it. I got sidetracked by the lake, I hadn’t meant to go that far. The evening was so impossibly perfect I went further than I meant to.

I kept pedaling and passed by two houses I used to deliver meals to for the senior center. I envisioned each face, wondered how they were doing. I also passed by the cat lady’s house. Used to, she had a sign up in her yard asking for donations for cat food. I made a note to leave some money next time. It must have been close to feeding time, several were milling around the front porch. I said hi to them and waved to her.

I would be happy with any one of the houses I passed by. I miss having a house, planting and doing and cleaning what you have a stake in. I have a kind of sorrow for our stuff all boxed up in storage. I am okay if I don’t think about it and really I don’t miss it most of the time. I hope my bed is okay, I hope the brass isn’t tarnished, I hope the artwork is not being destroyed by the elements. I hope the teacups aren’t smashed to smithereens.

My time is filled with helping Special needs kids at school, which has been a tremendous opportunity and each day I am thankful God gave me the work. It has opened up a whole new place in me that I didn’t know existed. And I come home and it really does feel like home here in this idyllic spot of beauty by the river. Each day Elaine does her magic to make this whole thing work. Okra is coming up back behind the Motorhome and we are excited about that.

This latest chapter of my life involves helping my Mom remember things. The other night I looked out to see a crescent moon with a star shining by it. I called Mom and told her to go out and look up at that moon. I asked her if she remembered calling me in Arizona when she saw a moon like that because it reminded her of me. She said, “Did I do that? Wow, that’s amazing. Well, I’m glad you live here now.”

I said, “I am too Mom, I am too.”

Christmas with the Kittizens

 

This morning I decided to bundle up and go down for some prayer and quiet time. I felt I needed it, though I confess I didn’t much feel like it. I opened the gate which was blocked by a snowbank of leaves from the disastrous winds yesterday.

I called to Weigumina, (sister) to come along. She hadn’t followed me down there since her injury and I missed her. Her brother had since taken her place and I think she felt a little pushed out of shape about that. (These are the neighbor cats but they aren’t home much and we started feeding them because we felt sorry for them) We took to calling her Weigumina because Vern Weigum had his 1956 Belair parked in my Aunt’s carport and that was her favorite place to enjoy the sun.

Once down there I fired up my heater and shut the door to keep the heat in. I was sitting there feeling a little dejected but grateful for the warmth. I heard a scratch and small meow at the door and there she was! I was so glad she made it down there and of course all my prayers were totally disrupted. She made herself at home on my lap and proceeded to stick her nose in my coffee and beg for my cooky.

All the while she had her eye on the door watching for brother. Sure enough, he showed up too. She was perturbed and commenced growling and even gave him a little swipe when he got too close. He wasn’t much affected by that. I could hear him in the corner batting around Sydney’s little feather-ball I gave him to play with. Then he jumped in the sink and watched us from there. They are both such clowns. I guess God knew I needed some entertaining (thank You)

Yesterday E was sick and Briggs stuck close to her side all day. We are so glad he is still with us at 16. He is of course, perfect. He has taken riding in the Motorhome in his stride even at his advanced age.

Earlier that morning I was at my brother’s house putting lights on the tree and I noticed his neighbor’s cats (who he has also started feeding because they are neglected and ignored, yes it runs in the family) playing with the leaves out front. It was so cute.

The tree was cause for great excitement for Pencil Neck, my brothers youngest cat. He runs around with a zip-tie in his mouth and will retrieve for hours if you throw it. And Mima, the queen of the house has earned her status over the years by handling many different animal situations with grace and dignity.

It’s Christmas with the Kittizens for all of us and we are glad for the comic relief and comfort they give us all year long. We continue to miss Tyler, one of the best dogs there ever was. To his credit, he always knew which cats belonged to the family and knew not to chase them. And Sydney, we still miss you so. I sometimes still expect you to come when I pop the tuna can.

They make our lives better all of our fur-families don’t they? I can’t imagine what we would do without them. Merry Christmas from our fur-house to yours.

 

When even the ocean is not big enough……..

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Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

I stood at the shore and waited for that feeling……..that eraser, elixir that would make all the present circumstances melt away. But it occurred to me that sometimes even the ocean is not big enough to do that. Even if it were fresh water and we were dying of thirst, it could save us but we would still thirst again, just as Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:

………but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.

But nature has always had a way of making God close for me, and I relaxed and let it do that. I looked hard at everything, and we ate good food and had some wine too. I foraged for shells and saw some magnificent patterns in some sand dollars and drew them in my book. For me, the ocean is God’s way of saying, “Here you go……explain this one.” And all I can say is that He is bigger than everything, even anyone’s problems including my own.

Even when it feels like the small things you do are like dumping a cup of water into an ocean of grief, God is the multiplier. When it’s all you can do, He makes it more than enough.

I am finished with my one year commitment to LOEL center and this weekend is the start of a little break before I begin the next phase of retirement. I am still a little ways off from Social Security and so I work for at least three and a half (counting) more years.

Sometimes I close my eyes and remember how my room looked from the right, and from the left. When I felt like everything in my life was secure and I had the umbrella of a big company over me. But maybe that was an illusion. I still have God over me, over us.

And this place by the river is truly a tremendous blessing. It is feeling like home  I am learning here to take one day at a time and receive it with a grateful heart. Maybe that’s what God is trying to tell me, that I don’t have to have everything mapped out and planned. How many people can walk down to a river in the morning after all?

The four days at the beach did its magic. I will remember the boat ride through the slough and our walks and so many birds this year, more than we’ve ever seen.

For a little time we were suspended:

It’s easy to think that at 3:19 AM it’s just us here alone in this place and I want to remember the peace of this moment. The staccato seal barking on the pier, the seagull I just heard. Even though it’s chilly I always crack the window to stay in touch with the ocean so big and still out there like God. Each drop of time is precious. An engine starts nearby, a night fisherman going out or coming in. You fighting off a cold nearby, fighting for breath and Briggs purring in my ear with his paw on my shoulder. Just is just us down here God, don’t forget us. Just beyond, over the bridge is where we left some of E’s parents ashes. The ocean breathe in and out, until God says “No more.”

And when we pulled back into town we put everything back on like a heavy pack and I have to remember Jesus other words, just before He went to the cross:

I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

And I think of Him on that terrible cross taking on my sin and the sin of the whole world and I know I can trust Him.

 

Restoration…….(kind of like what God does with us.)

Behold, I show you a new thing……..Isaiah 43:19

Just a very partial showing of Elaine’s restoration projects I thought I would showcase today……..My Prayer Closet out of her Mom’s old beat up dresser, a window covering you can open and close, a candy scale that was sad, corroded and forgotten, and a new table for my Aunt’s wash area! It is amazing living with a restorer and creator.

And her latest, the iron was weathered and tarnished and the wood just about gone…….we were about to throw out until I said (as we were dragging it to the scrap heap)……..”Wow, this iron frame is heavy, it’s a shame to not save it!”

And the newest Lubester……..

I love how she sees things. A piece of wood is never tossed out……she has a vision for what it could be made into. And the old rusty and forgotten is seen for what it once was and what it can be again.

This is the beauty of what God longs to do in each of our lives, my friends.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

And now she is outside building a cat house for the neighbor’s cats. They have the whole acreage here to run around in but they have decided home base is the Motorhome. Well, they were neglected and the neighbor is hardly ever home so a handful of food here and there become a twice daily regular feeding time.

Like I said, this is just a sampling of what she’s done over the years and for many recipients other than myself over the years, given away as labors of love. God has blessed the work of her hands as she blesses others. She amazes me.

I am so glad God has chosen not to leave me on the scrap heap. He is the Creator and Restorer of all times and all seasons, and that includes me and you.

“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Always just a little bit of mystery isn’t there? God has the right to keep some things under wraps, but someday all will be perfectly explained and understood.

Enjoy the beauty of His creation this weekend. I leave you peace…….

 

 

Happy Birthday to my bestie

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“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17

“Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Here she is in her happy place and it made me glad she could be there. There I can see in her face that her burdens are lightened. Today, I honor her because everyday she does things for me and makes my life a blessing.

She is God’s girl.

She’s the one who pays for the person ahead of her at Sonic Burger and never tells a soul, but I find out. Just the other day when she went in to pay for my cookies at the bakery, she noticed a WWII veteran struggling to open the door (he had a cap on).  She opened the door for him and then paid for his order without him knowing…….these are the kinds of things she does everyday and I always tell her, “God is smiling on you….”

She lives out her faith in a simple practical way by noticing strangers who need help……by leaving the last serving of what she thinks I might want. She loves until it hurts.

She does things for my Aunt every single day without saying a word because she knows living here is a blessing and she cares for her and my whole family. She breathes life into situations and life into a party. She moved with me all the way to this state even though it meant leaving a life and friends she loved.

She was always the one to work out difficult situations at work. She was the one they sent to train the “challenge” person. She never made the big sales in Insurance because she wouldn’t sell little old people something they couldn’t afford.

I know I make her sound like somewhat of a saint, and she is in the “Christian” definition. But like all of us, she knows her failings, but everyday her motto is to make something a little better than it was before. We all need someone in our lives that sees the best definition of us and she is that for me.

Only God knows her better than I do.

She encourages me every day, but she also loves me enough to let me know when I am not being honest with myself. Sometimes best friends have to be tough as well as tender, if they truly love.

Today I honor her life. For 28 years we have been best of friends. Through moves, up s and downs, victories and failures, joys and heartache, but most of all laughter. She lights up my days and I thank God for her.

She’s my friend, my sister in Christ, my soul-mate who laughs at all the same things I do.  Happy Birthday, Elaine Dupree!

 

The Thrill of Hope

 

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The rain is watering the earth and I can almost feel it breathing a sigh of relief. You have just left and it’s the cat and me for a few days. There is a vacuum in the space where you used to be. Sometimes it’s those small things you take for granted that are the most keenly felt when someone you care about is no longer there.

Things, life, the world goes on even in the wake of losses great and small. All over the world and in many different situations people are waving goodbye; all kinds of faces tinged with emotions reflected in retreating tail-lights. Psychiatrists, counselors and ministers devote much of their time helping people deal with it. That monstrous thing we call loss.

It is raining harder now and the air grows colder inside my space. I see your handiwork wherever I look, traces of you and how you always make things work better. I open the pantry and see the motion light you put there, and everything is just so.

You are going back to a happy place and to see friends. Old friends, old footprints retraced. Everything will be clean and bright the way I remember and you will have sun and that makes my heart glad for you.

It was quite a life we had there and a good one. It was like a foreign land at first, that desert. But it turned into a place that folded itself around us, comforted us in the loss of both your parents and all we went through with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and the grief that went with it.

My words seemed to flow more freely there in the little shop, my first prayer closet. A blog was born there to the backdrop of doves cooing, roosting on the rooftops next door.

Almost from the time we are born, our hearts and souls are acutely aware of a sense of loss and the fear that stems from it. Life at its most painful becomes synonymous with loss. Loss of a job we loved, loss of a loved one, death of a marriage, physical loss, loss of a home. Sometimes one loss turns into another. Such as when a deep loss turns into a bad habit. Then we have to kick the bad habit and we have that loss to deal with too.

But here is the big hope rests within and through all this. Here is where the story gets happy. That at the other end of this spectrum of loss, there is gain, without which we wouldn’t know loss at all. And that little word, gain, is what God is, and has always been concerned with.

For at the cross, His loss became our gain.

When we were determined to ruin ourselves and each other, God said, “No, I won’t let the story end this way.” He didn’t just write a happy ending. He came in physical form to become our happy ending. He came to fill that, as C.S. Lewis so rightly said, “God sized vacuum” in our hearts.

Thank you God. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Christmas.

Alzheimer’s Diary…..A continuing lesson in love

And above all these put on <sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”>love, which <sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”>binds everything together in <sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”>perfect harmony. And let <sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”>the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called <sup class="crossreference" value="(E)”>in one body. And <sup class="crossreference" value="(F)”>be thankful. Colossians 3:14

I have probably tacked this verse onto the beginning of posts more often this year than any other. Have you put on your love today? This past year, I have had to start over time after time, day after day. As most of you know who read my blog on a regular basis, we are working on year two of Elaine’s Mom living with us.

It’s been tough, to say the least. Hygiene is an ongoing issue more and more. We are working on week 4 with no shower, again. The last time, Elaine had to physically get in the shower with her because she refused to put water on her head. And she was washing with shampoo. Incontinence is also a problem. She refuses to wear the undergarments so bedding has to be changed often….laundry done several times a day.

Because she has been increasingly combative, her dose of Anti-psych drug was doubled just this past week. We noticed the rage has been just barely contained….it’s always just under the surface. The pacing and the agitation seem to go hand in hand.

It is disheartening and sobering for Elaine to realize that right now if her Mom were not on the Seroquel she would be in a lock down unit as we speak. Her Mom still knows very well where she is, but when her Doctor tells her that if she won’t let people take care of her she has to go somewhere where they can, he is met with indifference, a shrug of her shoulders.

It has been a constant challenge for both of us to do that “putting on love” thing Paul is talking about. And I am on another trip to California to see my family on Sunday. It’s hard to be the one always left behind. For two years, she has had to watch others travel, go on weekend trips, vacations. That is what caretakers face every day…….for them life has stopped. They feel just as chained as if they were in stocks.

And how can life still feel like it’s at a standstill, when the workload never stops?

Please pray? For wisdom, and strength to bear up. To keep laughing somehow. To know when to say “when.”

Pray for strength and grace for me as well. That I can be the right kind of support. Too often I feel like the check marks on my own personal report card are screaming out a big red “fail.” But God knows my heart, thankfully.

I take comfort in the fact that He hears my prayers of forgiveness uttered after every exasperated blown out sigh……He knows we are all dust after all, nevertheless a kernel of God keeps us all preserved for eternity.

Praise God.

And more and more and more, we are craving the peace, the harmony that used to fill the house. We still have it for the most part, we just have to fight for it where before it was effortless.

Here is the magic formula that works for any and every situation:

Love + Peace = Harmony

I will need until every last breath to put it into practice.